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D.A. candidates discuss the death penalty

April 25, 2012|By Robert Greene
  • The Times editorial page presents video discussions with the D.A. candidates
The Times editorial page presents video discussions with the D.A. candidates (Los Angeles Times )

An initiative to ban the death penalty in California qualified for the November ballot on Monday. Organizers are now urging district attorneys not to seek the death penalty at least until the Nov. 6 vote. Meanwhile, voters can see and hear the candidates for Los Angeles County district attorney discuss the issue -- and the field is split. Candidates' made their statements on a page unveiled Wednesday by The Times' editorial board.

Bobby Grace and Danette Meyers said they would be willing to see the death penalty go, given how hard it is to actually get to an execution in California. Both discuss the costs of providing appellate lawyers to condemned prisoners.

"We’re not being truthful to either defendants’ families or to victims’ families when telling them people are going to executed when clearly they’re not," Grace said.

VIDEO: The D.A. candidates on realignment and the death penalty

"That system is broken," Meyers said. "It is not working at all."

The gist of the campaign being run by SAFE California -- the people behind the November measure -- is that the costs of keeping the death penalty in California are too high. It's a politically savvy move, and it is likely to win the support of people who are morally opposed to the death penalty but also people who might favor keeping the penalty -- including people like Grace and Meyers, both of whom have sent convicts to death row -- if only executions were simpler, surer and less costly.

Candidates Alan Jackson, Jackie Lacey and Carmen Trutanich said they favor keeping the death penalty.

Jackson said the people of California have made it clear that they believe the death penalty is appropriate.

Lacey called execution "the appropriate punishment for some of the worst criminals that California has."

Trutanich said justice demands that the penalty remain. "In certain circumstances, in the most heinous cases, cases in which the evidence is overwhelming, the death penalty is called for in California," Trutanich said.

The district attorney election is June 5. If no single candidate gets more than 50% of the votes cast, there will be a runoff between the top two finishers in November -- on the same day as the death penalty vote. That raises the prospect of the initiative and the district attorney campaigns being closely linked, with candidates being called on to weigh in heavily for, or against, the measure.


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The next D.A. and the death penalty

California's death penalty law does not work

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